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Exclusive Pumping: Getting Started Guide

Are you trying to get started with Exclusive Pumping? The information in this guide even applies to occasional pumping, if that's your jam too!

For me, "breastfeeding" is an umbrella term that both nursing/latching and pumping fall under. Pumping is breastfeeding.

There are a lot of reasons why moms may want to or need to exclusively pump. I am not a person to discourage anyone else regarding their choices, and I’m absolutely the last person to ever shame another mom for something that they do or choose.

Personally, the reason why I exclusively pumped with my second baby is because we had some latch issues from the beginning- we had to supplement with formula in the hospital because I had C-vid and they had given me Sudafed which I believe gave me some trouble with milk production.

Things were a little bit tricky and it was impossible to "just latch her". She was starving and screaming and honestly couldn't calm down enough to even try. When I had my first baby we also had a couple of issues with breastfeeding, I also did not know how to pump (like, at all) so at that time exclusive pumping wasn’t an easy or doable option for me.

I would like to add that my decision to formula feed my first child was not entirely my own, I had a lot of outside influence and general.. discouragement/misinformation.. that I won’t get into in this post. I only bring that up because I want every other mom to know that it is only their choice! Not their partner, mother, grandmother, in-laws, nobody! Nobody else has the right to choose or influence how they will feed their baby. People can give their bad advice which is almost always unsolicited, but in the end it is your choice. You are in the driver's seat.

Nursing is hard. Exclusively pumping is even harder. Both of these things can be made easier with the proper education and tools.

You don’t need to have the most top of the line, trending, most expensive everything. There are of course some thing that have (at least in my case) made pumping an absolute breeze – as much as it can be – and have been worth every penny that they cost. I will make a few product recommendations in this post based off of my own experiences and things that I personally use on a daily basis, but you are absolutely free to go and research and find things that you like for yourself as well.

Now, here are my basic tips for getting started with exclusive pumping, this also can apply to occasional pumping.

I’m going to add a basic checklist for those of you who don’t have the luxury of time to read through my super long post. I talk too much! If you're looking for any discount codes or links for products mentioned, visit my link page here.


This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click one of my links and make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps to support my blog and family! Read my full disclosure here.

I am a Certified Breastfeeding Specialist. However, the advice and tips on my pages is not personalized individual medical advice and you should always discuss concerns with your healthcare provider or seek the help of a lactation professional. I do not currently offer consults or counseling, just general information.


The Basics:

  1. You need a decent pump, not a fancy "discreet wearable". A decent pump.

  2. You need flanges that fit you - the ones that came in the box probably don't.

  3. You need a bra that will hold your flanges. Just trust me.

  4. You need a container to store milk, at least a mason jar.

  5. You need a good schedule, it makes a big difference.

  6. Grab some nip balm or flange lube

  7. If you need to travel, a pump bag.

  8. Magic pills, cookies, and teas are NOT all they're cracked up to be.

Different types of breast pumps

First and foremost: you can’t pump without a pump!

I have personally been getting my hands on as many as I can to test and review so that I am familiar with their features, their pros and cons, their specs and just general feel of them. At the time that I write this, my top two favorites are the Spectra Synergy Gold for stationary pumping (because this is wall plug only) and my favorite for portability sake and regular/daily use is the Pumpables Genie Advanced. I have quite a few more that I have acquired that I have to test- but these have still remained my favorite based on their features, strength, and general feel. Update: I wrote this post when I was exclusively pumping for my second baby. I've come through to add some updates, such as my two new 'main pumps' with baby number three, the Baby Buddha and Unimom Opera.

Remember: everyone responds differently to different pumps! One may work wonders for your neighbor or sister, but not for you! Pumping is an expensive game of "lets find out what works".

If you need to glance, I've constructed a huge list of all of the pumps on the market (which I try to update frequently as more come out) if you'd like to take a look. This is what I've found available in the United States, I try to update as new ones are released.

I recommend that you get a good electric pump that will allow you to be able to get up if you choose to or need to. Newborn babies don’t require you to get up as much as an older baby or toddler will. When that time comes, you will need to get up about 10 times within the first few minutes of your session. Every time. However, if you have a pump that is not wall plug only, you will be able to get up and walk across the room to get the thing that you so desperately need. And let me tell you, a wearable is very likely not gonna cut it as a primary pump, as convenient as they may be.

On top of a good electric pump I recommend that you have a manual pump that you know how to use in the event of an emergency. This could be a power outage, or something malfunctions on your regular pump and you’re unable to use it. If you have a baby that can’t latch and a pump that doesn’t work, you’re in for a long night until you can get to the store and buy a replacement. I like the Medela myself, very inexpensive and you can swap the flange for one that fits, and membrane for a duckbill which may perform better.

It’s better to be prepared for something that you might not ever need to use, (that was very cheap) than to not have something and really really really need it. A note, the silicone type passive suction pumps like a haakaa are really not gonna do the job as well as a manual pump would and they are typically equal in price. The negative pressure is typically intended to catch an active letdown, but can be tough at completely draining the breast. They're not meant for full time use!

I also recommend that you keep at least one set of every replaceable part for your pump on hand at all times because they like to wear out or go missing at three in the morning when all the stores are closed. This includes all of your soft parts, and your tubing just in case. If one part fails and you have no back up, the pump cannot function properly!

Here's an example of how often most parts should be replaced. In the diagram, I refer to 'silicone flanges' as specifically the Pumpables Liquid Inserts. Other thicker silicone flanges do not need to be replaced that often! Pumpin Pal flanges, Lacteck, Bareshield flanges are typically only needing to be replaced if damaged.

Looking for a list of all of the breast pump flanges on the market? Check this out!

Breast Pump Part Replacement Guide

Pumpables Genie Advanced, Spectra Synergy Gold
Pumpables Genie Advanced, Spectra Synergy Gold

And you may think that by "portable pump" I mean those wearables like Willow, Elvie, and Momcozy to name a few. I personally cannot afford those just to test, but from the amount that I see being resold and the amount of poor reviews- I can only assume that they are not all they’re cracked up to be. A select few are good but some of the cheaper and more popular ones can actually be very in efficient at removing milk and can end up hurting your supply. If you're gonna spend $300-$500 on wearable pumps, they should work IMPECCABLY every single time. But that's not the case!

2023 Update: I have received some of these fancy wearable pumps from friends and will test them out a bunch and report back, but my initial findings are absolutely that they do not work for everyone and they're finicky. If I relied on these as my only pumps, boy would I be in trouble. I would truly have an undersupply if all I used were wearable pumps or collection cups.

These are not typically intended for primary use, you need a "real pump". These are a great option to have for going back to work, or using every now and then when you really need to be hands-free and tube free, but I really strongly recommend that you do not rely only on these. Personally I don't think they're worth the price tag, but to each their own.

The second most important thing that you will need in addition to a pump is flanges that fit of course.

"What do you mean, Anna? Don't they come with the pump? Why do I need to buy more?"

Well, let me tell you! The ones in the box are typically not the correct size, this is because they can provide one that is too large that everyone can use rather than one that can be too small that only some people can use.

You want to use a measuring tool such as this one here – this is printable and free – to measure your nipples. I’ve read that you should not measure before 37 weeks pregnant as your nipples can still change in size before the baby is born. For those who have already had their babies, measure now! Do it! Also, your size may change over time. Mine decreased in size 3 times in 9 months. I noticed my size did not change at all between babies 2 and 3, even after my labor with lots of IV fluids.

I personally prefer soft flanges over hard flanges, such as the Pumpables Liquid Kits, Pumping Pals flanges, or Lacteck flanges. I have a blog post that goes over all the different flange types on the market here.

However, some moms do not respond to silicone and require the hard plastic. The only way to figure out which one is for you is to try both. (Don't worry, you can very likely resell or give away the pair that didn't work out!)

Soft flanges are especially good for elastic nipples -this is where your nipple tissue is "extra stretchy" and will extend to all the way the end of the flange and can even hit the back- I personally had that problem and I actually got some cuts from the back of the flange being so sharp at the edge. I have switched to silicone and never looked back.

You need to be sure that the flange size you have as well fitting, just like when you buy shoes! If your shoes are too big or too small, it hurts to walk. But if they fit right, then you can walk and run pain free! Flange fit is exactly the same. If it’s too small you just simply can’t use them, you’ll get blisters and you won’t have efficient milk removal. If they’re too large they’ll cause the nipples to swell and constrict the milk ducts- which in turn causes inefficient removal, and can even decrease supply due to milk being left behind. And that can also be an open door for clogs and mastitis! It's a whole big thing, I find I'm constantly saying "MEASURE YOUR NIPPLES!"

Pumpables Liquid Shield Kits and Genie Advanced
Pumpables Liquid Shield Kits and Genie Advanced

These inserts from Pumpables require much more frequent replacement than the PumpinPals or Lacteck, just a heads up. Monthly for 4+ pumps per day, typically. I believe my discount code of TEACHINGMOTHERHOOD is a single use per person so you'll want to go looking for other codes on the Pumpables Community Facebook page or various pumping pro instagram pages for reordering. I have seen others like PUMPEDUPMAMA, MIMIANDPAL, MAMAEVY, PMP10, for example. They also have a bulk order discount code for 6+ sets of replacement parts, that code is PUMPALOT.

An update/note on liquid shields- I used to LOVE these, and they'd last me around 4 weeks even with 6-8 pumps per day. Eventually, the quality seemed to decrease and they'd only last 2 weeks with as little as 4 pumps per day. I couldn't afford $12 a pair twice a month, so I switched over to pumpin pals where I only needed to replace the duckbills and back flow protectors far less often.

Pumpables Genie Advanced hacked with PumpinPals Flanges
Pumpables Genie Advanced hacked with PumpinPals Flanges

Pumpables Genie Advanced hacked with Lacteck Flanges
Pumpables Genie Advanced hacked with Lacteck Flanges

The next most important thing is a hands free pumping bra.

You might think that you don’t need one, and you’d rather keep the 40ish bucks. I know, because that was me. I can promise you that you are not meant to sit there for 20+ minutes holding flanges up to your breasts with your hands, with your wrists at a terrible angle.

With a hands-free bra you can just hook up and forget about it. You can read a book, you can use your phone, you can knit a sweater. You can also eat delicious snacks which you will need because breastfeeding makes you as ravenous as a momma bear in springtime.

I have tried a few different brands of pumping bras and these ones are my absolute favorite. I wear them all day every day, and I feel like a million bucks. The first one that I tried was so ugly I took it off every time I was not pumping, because I hated it so much and I couldn’t even wear it under my clothes. (hello super unflattering seams and quad boobs, and it stretched out and stopped holding flanges after a few weeks)

These ones, the Amelia Cami, are good enough to be worn as just a shirt when I’m at home. I have all of the colors and they’re worth every penny, in my opinion. They hold SO WELL onto every possible flange I own and my wearable pumps and cups. I plan to wear them after weaning too! The code TEACHINGMOTHERHOOD saves 10%. Update: I wore them my ENTIRE pregnancy with my third baby, they're excellent for maternity.

Davin and Adley Amelia Crop Cami for pumping and nursing

I have a full post on my favorite bras here!

Breastmilk storage options!

If you’re pumping, you may be lucky enough to get a couple feeds ahead of baby. You might even get to freeze some! You’re going to need something to hold milk in when it’s in the fridge, or the freezer, or while traveling. Remember- anything beyond what your baby eats in a day is "extra". If you were exclusively nursing, you'd have no extra! Not everyone makes extra, and that's fine and normal! Your worth is not measured in ounces. An oversupply is not a set number, but measured by if you have any supply over what your baby is eating.

Below are my personal favorites for using the pitcher method, bags that I freeze, and what I used to carry milk when traveling. I never really go farther than an hour from home so I don’t have to worry much past a cooler bag or chiller bottle.

breastmilk storage pitcher for pitcher method
64 or 32 ounce glass pitcher with spout

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Ceres Chill Milk Chiller
Ceres Chill- holds cold temperature approx 20 hours

This one is debatable as a necessity of course, but if you're going somewhere far enough that you need to bring extra milk from the fridge, carry all of it in here and then pour out portions into the bottle as needed. Alternatively you can pump and pour fresh milk into this, and carry just one or two readily portioned bottles. Fresh milk is good sitting out longer than cold milk is, so I'd personally keep the cold milk in the chiller and the fresh milk out or at the least in my little lunchbox style cooler (that I bought before the ceres chill that does not stay cold as long). These can also be used as water bottles when they're no longer needed for breastmilk storage. I have a full review on the ceres chill here.

They have recently released a smaller sized chiller as well, which can fit into more bags/cupholders and is better if you carry less milk. Discount code TEACHINGMOTHERHOOD saves 15%!

Breastmilk safe storage guidelines

You NEED to have a decent milk removal schedule.

If you're hoping that you can just pump "whenever you feel like it" or "whenever you get time", you are sadly outta luck. You need to set alarms for the best times, and keep up with the frequent sessions. Especially in the early days, and try to keep them around the same time each day and the same distance apart each day.

I can’t believe how many moms just pump when they think they get time and then they end up having three sessions a day and losing supply. It truly makes me cry. They just don't know!

It is extremely crucial to pump frequently and on a schedule, especially during the first 12 weeks when you're trying to build and establish your supply. It's so much easier to start off on a good foot than to struggle to build up once it's too late. Frequent milk removal in the first days/weeks actually increases the number of prolactin receptor sites, and builds the blueprint for your future milk supply.

I used to recommend 8-12 sessions in a day- 15 minutes each if you're doing 12 OR 30 minutes each if you're doing 8.

I will say right now, 12 times a day is pretty tough. That's every 2 hours. I did that with my second baby and it was truly insane- I don't remember any of it because it's all a blur. With my third baby I did every 3 hours, and that was working around nursing as well because I ended up deciding at the last minute to give that a shot.

It may be a lot easier to use something portable, hands free, etc. You can get a battery pack for larger wall plug pumps, or a smaller portable pump. Some moms even use fanny packs to carry their pumps around- For my pumps I have a really bougie pack called the Harper, but truly any fanny pack can hold a pump! I have two sizes of that Harper bag and the largest one fits pumps as big as Spectra. They're pricey for a fanny pack but they're vegan leather and super nice. You can always use something less expensive and it'll work just the same, though this one does have grommet holes for tubing and is designed by a super sweet pumping mom.

If you want to be able to exclusively provide breastmilk for your baby you have to make your body think that it needs as much as you tell it to. (You're telling it with pump sessions, not telepathy or magic cookies)

If you are not replacing every single feed with a pump session, it’s not gonna add up unless you’ve got a "natural oversupply". And of course there are some women who have a low supply- who no matter how many times they pump in a day they just can’t keep up. To those women, I urge you to visit an IBCLC or another certified specialist (CLC, CBS etc) who may be able to find the source of the problem and help you.

A note: lactation counseling is often covered by insurance, please check into that if you're going forward with that kind of thing!! Sometimes you are eligible for reimbursement.

I have two posts you may want to skim, things to avoid that can hurt milk supply, and proven ways to increase milk supply (that are not teas, treats, and pills btw).

Here is an example of a "strict" pumping regimen. I also recommend a daily or semi-regular power pump if you're trying to increase supply, see the next graphic for how that looks. A power pump is mimicking a hungry baby coming back for more milk, and signals your body to pick up production. You won't see immediate results (like during that session) but the point is to get the message across!

This is simply an example, not a requirement.

Sample exclusive pumping schedule

Power pumping instructions

"Bougie" extras that you probably don’t need, but are very nice to have.

Below is a list of things that are debatable as essentials, but I personally enjoy them.

Earth Mama Organics Nipple Butter

A lot of people prefer coconut oil because it's cheaper and has more uses than strictly nipple butter, but I love this stuff. I lube my PumpinPals flanges with it, and it also makes a good chapstick! I've had one jar last a very very very long time.

Special pump bag

I bought a special pump bag that I thought was a really good deal ($40) on Amazon, and I turned out to not really like it that much. More often than not, you get what you pay for in terms of quality with pump bags. I ended up buying a Sarah Wells pump bag during their 2022 outlet sale, and quickly became obsessed with the brand (and a few others) and have grown quite the large collection of bags. In my opinion, a pump bag is a very good investment as it protects your expensive pump while traveling. A regular bag can do the job, but it may be lacking a special protected compartment that's intended for a breast pump. Sarah Wells Bags also have a lifetime warranty, whereas amazon brands do not.

A tip I have is make sure you buy one that doubles as a diaper bag or bag you can use after you're done pumping to really get your money's worth!

See my top 7 favorite pump/diaper bags here, and my ranked breast pump bags by budget.

Sarah Wells Bags reviews
My first pump bag and accessory set!

I would like to add a little statement on galactagogues and promising "magic pill" supplements.

If you ever see an advertisement that shows full milk bottles with a product next to it that’s promising to increase your milk supply, they are preying on you. These are targeted ads that come up after searches on "milk supply", this is 100% a FACT. And it is not a "one size fits all"- some supplements work for some people, some don't work, and some can even have an opposite effect. Fenugreek, for example, has a large percentage of positive reviews but also a decent chunk of negative reviews (because some people, myself included, see a huge loss of supply when taking it). Especially for those with thyroid conditions, fenugreek can cause trouble.

This targeted add is the most common one that pops up after searching about milk supply issues.

Do you see here how I searched "increase milk supply" on Pinterest, and there's a sponsored ad by Majka? That brand by the way, sells super tiny jars of protein powder for like $60, and says you need to take it for X amount of time before seeing results, which if you fall for it, is like two jars? This is not me dogging that company by any means, but that ad is targeted to pop up from that keyword search. I find things like this to be a little misleading.

I'll say it again- These supplements CAN work, but are NOT a ONE SIZE FITS ALL. Be wary of that when trying them out.

Are there lactogenic foods that are known anecdotally to help boost milk supply? Of course! It's something that's been around culturally for centuries, and there are a few studies here and there on it.

But to sell these expensive "magic pills" and snacks at such a high price is just taking advantage.

There are certain superfoods that not only can 'increase' your supply, but also help you get many extra nutrients that you may be missing in your diet. This is similar to people insisting that coconut water was the magic pill that boosted their supply when really they were just short on electrolytes and hydration! A lot of the time, cookies can "boost supply" too. This may perhaps be due to some ingredients in the cookies, but often times is just the extra calories required for milk synthesis!

Example: Barley and barley malt are have the highest concentration of something called beta glucan, which can increase production and circulation of prolactin. (In humans and some animals!) and prolactin is one of the milk making hormones. Source: Boost Your Breastmilk, Alicia Simpson

Milk Supply Boosting Foods


Check out some of my related posts for more info on milk supply and exclusive pumping!

I also encourage you to come join me on Instagram- I post daily information, polls, question boxes, and more. I'm also just a message away if you were to need any tips, but not medical advice.


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